WASHINGTON – Two non-profit groups are suing Tyson Foods Inc. in Washington, D.C. Superior Court on charges the company is misleading consumers with claims that Tyson’s chicken products are produced using humane and sustainable practices. Food & Water Watch and Organic Consumers Association (OCA) allege that Tyson Foods’ claims of humane treatment of animals and environmental stewardship amount to false marketing and advertising representations to consumers.

In a statement, Tyson Foods declined to comment on pending litigation but added: “…we believe in transparency and have been increasingly open about our business as we’ve shown through our annual sustainability reports. We’re committed to continuous improvement in everything we do. That’s how we’ve become the world’s leading producer of no-antibiotics-ever chicken, why we employ more than 2,500 food safety professionals, implemented third-party animal welfare audits and video monitoring, have the largest team of animal welfare specialists, and have set a science-based target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent by 2030.”

The groups claim that “…nearly a dozen undercover investigations in as many years have uncovered systematic cruelty inflicted intentionally upon chickens raised for Tyson products.” For example, according to the complaint, “To mitigate the mating problems, diminished egg production, illness, injuries, and premature death caused by fast-growing breeds’ genetic predisposition to rapid obesity, breeder birds are kept in a perpetual state of starvation…” while laying eggs that will eventually become the chickens used for meat. The complaint also states that “…Tyson has also been documented using “nose bones,” the practice of shoving a plastic rod into roosters’ nostrils for this purpose.”

The groups allege other inhumane production practices include:

  • routine use of anti-parasitic drugs;
  • injection of chicken eggs with formaldehyde;
  • production of chickens contaminated with antibiotic-resistant superbugs;
  • washing of the Tyson products with hazardous chemical disinfectants; and
  • crowding of birds by the tens of thousands into massive industrial warehouses with no access to the outdoors.

The complaint also attacks Tyson’s messaging about environmental stewardship. “Contrary to Tyson’s representations, Tyson regularly fails to comply with environmental laws and is the second largest polluter in the United States,” according to the complaint.

“Tyson’s inhumane chicken operations take a tremendous toll on the environment,” said Wenonah Hauter, Food & Water Watch executive director. “In 2014, Tyson dumped more than 20 million pounds of toxic pollutants into US waterways. From 2013 to 2015, the company was guilty of more than 300 wastewater Clean Water Act permit exceedances. Any claims of environmental responsibility are patently false.”

Read the full complaint.